T.R. Hoover Reaches South Dallas Youth Through One-on-One Tutoring
In March, when Dallas ISD youth started their spring break, directors and staff at T. R. Hoover Community Development Corporation were hopeful they’d see their learners back again the following week. Instead, it became clear that COVID-19 would significantly impact lives in Dallas. And as schools shifted to virtual learning, the T.R. Hoover Multipurpose Center became a crucial resource for families.
“Parents were at our front door, with the computer and the student in hand, and they were more or less asking, ‘What are we going to do?’” recalls Sherri Mixon, the executive director at T.R. Hoover.
Despite initial conversations about doing so, the center couldn’t shut down. “The community leans on the center as a place for information, guidance and support,” said Dr. Vonda Nunley, T.R. Hoover’s youth director. “There was no way we were going to turn them away.”
Located in South Dallas, T.R. Hoover CDC is a nonprofit that serves children, adults and seniors in the area through a range of programs, including after-school and summer care. In normal times, the after-school program is a place where learners gather for fellowship, lessons and dinner.
Transitioning that into an online program was a tall task, but one the staff was determined to tackle.
To do so, T.R Hoover launched its Homework Helpline. During the day, youth could do their at-home learning through Dallas ISD, and in the evening, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., they could log onto Zoom for additional help. Using breakout sessions, T.R. Hoover was able to pair learners with a mentor, typically a student from St. Mark’s School of Dallas or The Hockaday School. These older students, Mixon and Nunley said, were essential to the helpline.
But after successfully navigating the spring, there was still summer programming to pull off. “I knew there were a lot of things that our students needed to stay on top of as they moved into the next grade,” Nunley said.
Because of that need, one of the summer’s primary programs was Tutoring Time.
Between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., learners could choose an hour-long timeslot of one-on-one reading and math enrichment. “They did a little remediation and a lot of acceleration,” Nunley said.
Then, in the afternoon, T.R. Hoover offered a virtual version of its original summer plan: Kids College 2020. Held from June 8 to Aug. 7, the camp included everything from French and history lessons to activities like instrument-making. Learners were also able to grow their own succulents in the Garden Center, and they received books at home through the center’s newly launched Wanderers Traveling Library.
But Kids College didn’t just focus on academics, although each of the 52 summer learners met their progress goals.
“We knew that social and emotional learning was important — and equally as important — because these kids needed that contact and that interaction,” Nunley said.
Mixon shared the story of one 11-year-old learner who made tremendous strides, both academically and personally. Throughout the summer, she became more confident and less afraid to make mistakes. “We would never be able to say this was not a successful program — because that one child, we made a significant difference with,” she said.
This spring and summer have been a learning experience for both youth and adults, and Mixon and Nunley offered a few pieces of advice: Always have patience with learners, families and yourself, and keep childcare guidelines in mind. Don’t forget to give yourself grace, and when you make mistakes, find a way to grow from them. “We learned a lot about technology,” Nunley said. “But we also learned how to love each other through all of this.”
This school year, T.R. Hoover will continue its Tutoring Time program, as well as create outdoor learning labs at the center. These labs will allow small pods of learners to get extra assistance and guidance as they navigate online learning. After school, the organization will again partner with St. Mark’s and Hockaday students to continue emotional, social and academic help, one-on-one.
The center will also continue its meal programs. Along with food distributions for families on Tuesdays and Thursdays, T.R. Hoover offers daily lunches for youth. During the summer, T.R. Hoover reached more than 80 children daily through its meal program. “We understand that the best way to reach somebody, especially a kid, is through their stomach,” Nunley said. “When we can get them to come in for a meal with us, we can reach them academically, emotionally, socially, mentally and physically.”
To learn more about the impact T.R. Hoover is making in the South Dallas area, visit trhoovercdc.org.